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Burma's Orwellian Regime Deserves Tougher Sanctions

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Burma's military rulers have repeatedly described the U.S. and the EU sanctions as "unjust and inhumane act,'' that will cause chaos and anarchy. The junta also used to say that economic sanctions are the unilateral actions taken only by the big powerful countries on developing countries, ignoring the equality among the nations, which the international community accepts. Especially, sanctions aim at outbreak of unrest following the difficulties faced by the people and falling a nation in a state of anarchy, says the New Light of Myanmar, the mouthpiece of the junta. But, it never says that the economic downturn is the product of mismanagement by the military regime. Nevertheless, the Burma's rogue military regime does not put into practice self-criticism on the question of sanctions done by itself upon its own population. For instance, one Member of Parliament belonged to the National League for Democracy (NLD) party was a physician by profession. The junta's authorities noticed him to choose only one - between profession and politics. If he would like to be a physician he must resign his political position and give up the NLD. His family situation constrained him to choose his medical license. Numerous NLD members were under threats and intimidation in a similar way and they were forced to choose between their professions and politics. It's a usual way of sanctioning upon citizens by the regime. Moreover, the junta used to play an atrocious act as a sanction. The experience of Ms. Htay Htay an active Executive Member of Ma-gwe Division NLD was a good example. Unfortunately, she underwent an emergency surgery of appendectomy at Thin-gan-gyun Township Model Hospital. When she just came out of the operation theatre, one secret police officer appeared at the office of the surgical ward and told the chief surgeon to discharge the patient, immediately. When the doctor asked him of his identity and why he disturbed a physician's rights, he showed his identity card and said that the patient did not deserve hospitalization, because she was a member of NLD. In addition, the secret police threatened the doctor of his future. Eventually, Htay Htay was discharged. A different type of sanction practiced by the junta was termed as a gross violation of the Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights human rights. Take for an example of a female student who wishes to stay anonymous. Although she passed her qualification test for further studies in a foreign country, the authorities did not issue a passport to her due to her father supports the NLD. There are numerous cases of double-standard to have educational opportunity. Burma was trampled under the jackboots of the army generals who refuse to allow equal opportunity in higher education. A special type of pressure that comes with the junta's immigration department is also a kind of sanction managed by the military intelligence bureau. When a citizen comes of age, he or she has to submit an application for National Registration Card (NRC). He or She has to take first the recommendation from the respective Head of Ward-ship Peace and Development Council. Then he or she has to go and seek for the second recommendation from the respective police station. With those two recommendation letters, he or she has to file application for his or her NRC. The important element that looms behind those recommendations is that he or she must be a member of Union Solidarity & Development Association (USDA) which is the same kind of Hitler's brown shirted Nazi storm troopers. If you are not a USDA member, you cannot get the required recommendation letters. Without USDA membership, you have to expend excessive amount in bribe for your NRC. If you are a member of the NLD, you have to resign from party or bribe authorities in 6 digits. Without NRC you cannot work or travel. Peoples from all walks of life in Burma are severely suffering from lots of miseries under various sanctions made by the military regime which rules the country since 1962 and it is a widely known issue throughout the world. The consequences of this reign of violence produce spilling over effects directly into territories of the neighboring countries. Especially, neighboring Thailand is the nation most afflicted by Burma's socio-economic troubles including political unrest, refugees, migrant-workers, women and children trafficking, disease, drugs, prostitution and terrorism as well. For the past two decades, an estimation of more than a million illegal workers has fled from Burma to Thailand due to economic stumble in military ruled country. It caused Thai governments facing tremendous intricacy with social and economic problems. There has been massive influx of various kinds of narcotics drugs, and women and children trafficking taking place on a regular basis, creating serious transnational crimes along the 2,400 km-long Thailand-Burma border. The next thing that intertwined with the regional politics is the problem of over 2100 political prisoners who are still under detention in the junta's prisons, arrested and sentenced unbelievable long-termed imprisonments. Most of them were intentionally transferred to remote prisons where health-care is in a state of disappointment. Most prisoners of conscience have to facing terrible tortures under cutting out of nutritious food and medicines. The outcome is over a hundred political prisoners including MPs, writers and journalists had passed away in the regime's jails. People are deeply concerned about safety of over 2100 prisoners of conscience. All political prisoners have been arrested due to their political activities involving to democracy and human rights. Releasing prisoners of conscience may be a sign of sincerity that the generals honestly want to restore democracy and human rights in Burma. But, as long as taking too much time to release political prisoners, it means the generals may not allow democracy and national reconciliation in Burma. The military regime speaks loudly about national reconciliation and takes advantage of releasing limited number of prisoners, in order to reduce international pressure especially for sanctions. The regime should convince the fact that building an appropriate political atmosphere is the basic need for national reconciliation. That means unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained arbitrarily and inhumanely. The release of all political prisoners can cause lifting international sanctions and the revival of nation's economy which is in a state of collapse. May 30 of year 2003 is a black mark in the contemporary history in Burma. The junta's crackdown on the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade has revived calls for tougher sanctions, as the international community seeks to vent its outrage on the Burmese military regime. The United States led the imposition of sanctions, expanding its visa blacklist and renewing calls for trade sanctions in the wake of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest after the violence of May 30, which the State Department said that it appeared to have been a premeditated attack, mounted by junta-backed thugs. 28 July of 2003, is a memorable date, on this day, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, signed into law "Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003," an executive order sending a clear signal to Burma's ruling junta that it must release the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, along with all other political prisoners, and move down towards the path of democracy. These measures clearly affirm to the people of Burma that the United States stands with them in their struggle for democracy and freedom. Burma's military rulers have described the U.S. sanctions as an "unjust and inhumane act,'' that will cause chaos and anarchy. On the contrary, two members of the NLD have been arrested due to praying peacefully for the release of political prisoners in Burma, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. During a weekly prayer meeting on 21 April 2009 in Rangoon's Twante Township, local police arrested the NLD vice chairman and chief organizer of the Twante Township. This current action taken by the junta is also a sort of sanction over freedom of faith. For that reason, Burmese oppositions and the human rights organizations around the world are urging the SPDC to make an honest commitment releasing unconditionally and immediately all detained political prisoners, restore the democratic rights, and enter political dialogue with the leaders of the NLD and the non-Burman ethnic nationalities so as to stop the crisis in Burma as well as to preserve the stabilities in the region. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in February that the Obama administration is reviewing its policy towards Myanmar (Burma) to find ways to better influence the regime and help the country's people. The States has announced it will review policy on Burma following a rare US top diplomat Stephen Blake, director of the Office for Mainland Southeast Asia at the State Department, visit to the country in March. The review is set to find more effective ways in spurring democratization and achieving Western goals in Burma, said a statement released by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The statement said that there was "no appetite to lift sanctions" without a real progress by Burma's junta to free dissidents or expand the country's political process. In the meantime, grass-roots folks those living on the outskirts of the capital and the poverty-stricken rural areas, can hardly afford to have a meal in a day. Especially, number of down-and-outs is increasing rapidly. The living standards of average citizens are terribly declining. According to the UN estimation, one child in three under the age of five is already suffering from malnutrition. Burma's authoritarian military regime is impeding the health community's efforts to control infectious disease threats in Burma, according to an investigation published in Public Library of Science Medicine. Dr Chris Beyrer (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and colleagues carried out field investigations in Burma in 2005 and 2006, and also searched the medical and policy literature on HIV, TB, malaria, and avian flu in Burma. The researchers found that the SPDC's investment in health care is one of the lowest worldwide and that the health sector has been weakened by widespread corruption. In conclusion, Burmese junta will never consider coming straight to the point in accordance with the United Nations' resolutions or for the sake of its own citizens' welfare. Using delaying tactics, the junta is trying to nullify 'the democratic inspiration of the Burmese people' through its false political road map including 2010 elections scheme to keep up the power. For that only reason, International Community ought to tighten sanctions (not humanitarian aid) against the military regime until the ruling generals commit themselves to democratic reforms. Sanctions can help awakening the sleeping generals to change their unethical practises. To people of Burma, China and the ASEAN are directly responsible to tame the junta instead of encouraging to commit unlawful and unethical practises. Lifting sanctions without any change may allow the brutal military regime to possess a killing license without fear in Burma.

 

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)
 

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